History of NZ Dermatological Society Inc

Dermatology was first recognised as a specialty in New Zealand in 1948, following the enactment of the Social Security Act in New Zealand in 1938.

In 1948 the General Secretary of the British Medical Association wrote to Dr Alison, Dermatologist in New Zealand, with agreement to proceed with the formation of a Dermatological Society. At that stage the BMA was to closely associated with the fledgling Dermatology Society.

The inaugural meeting of the Dermatology Society in New Zealand was held in the BMA rooms in Wellington in 1948. Dr P E Alison was elected President and Dr R G Park elected Treasurer. The annual subscription fee was set at two guineas. It was agreed that dermatologists would be included amongst the specialists and entitled to perform excisions of major and minor skin tumours, removal of warts and biopsies of glands. Skin biopsies were subsequently added to the specialists list of procedures.

In 1950 radiation therapy was added as an acceptable therapy when undertaken by a dermatologist. There were two clinical meetings held in 1949; one in Wellington and the other in Christchurch.

The initial membership of the Society was eight members and now in 2019 there are approximately 70 members of the Society.

In 1954 the NZDSI was accepted for membership to the British Association of Dermatologists. In 1957 oral steroid therapy was introduced and approved for conditions such as polyarteritis, pemphigus, erythroderma and drug reactions.

In 1959 Plaquenil was added to the drug tariff and further discussions were held over the formation of a combined Australian and New Zealand College of Dermatologists.

In 1961 1% Hydrocortisone was added to dermatologists treatment regime. A regular yearly clinical meeting was undertaken and in 1964 a merger was entertained between the newly formed Australasian College of Dermatologists and the New Zealand Dermatological Society. For various reasons the merger did not occur but there has been ongoing close contact, with clinical meetings and combined meetings ever since.

Supported by the New Zealand Dermatological Society, the website DermNet NZ was launched in 1996 by Dr Amanda Oakley and a small team of New Zealand dermatologists. Dr Mark Duffill’s patient information sheets were an early source and DermNet NZ grew into a world renowned on line resource for information on skin conditions.  It has been contributed to by many NZDSI members, trainees, and NZ and international health professionals.  

Yearly Scientific meetings continue to be held with the last combined ACD/NZDSI meeting being held in Queenstown in 2008.

Subsequent to this meeting Annual Scientific meetings have been held in Napier August 2009, Christchurch May 2010, Wellington August  2011, Queenstown 2012 and Twin Waters Novatel, Sunshine Coast, Australia, July 2013.

In the last five years there has been considerable sub-specialisation, particularly in the surgical field with the addition of Mohs Micrographic Surgery Group and Advanced Dermatologic Surgery Group (ADSG), encompassing cosmetic and liposuction techniques. This latter group has been organised under the title of 'NZ Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery Group' (NZCDSG).

Author: Dr David Downey, Dermatologist, North Shore, New Zealand.